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Letters Game FAQ

The Letters Game is the most common game played on the game show Countdown on UK TV. The other game is the Numbers Game for which we also have a Solver. (We have no affiliation with the Countdown television show or Channel 4.)

Q1. How is the game played?
Q2. What words are permitted?
Q3. How do you use the solver?
Q4. Is the solver perfect?

Q1. How is the game played

Nine letters are selected at random with the contestant only being able to choose the ratio of vowels and consonants (within some fixed constraints). Both contestants get 30 seconds to find the longest word they can using all or some of the letters. The contestant that finds the longest valid word wins with a bonus for using all nine letters.

The television show also has a very similar game called the Conundrum. This is a set of letters which hide a single nine-letter solution. The contestants are shown the letters and the first to press the buzzer with the correct solution wins the points.

Q2. What words are permitted?

The words must be single words found in the English language. The dictionary for the television show is the New Oxford Dictionary of English. Included are all "reasonable" inflections of valid words found there. Excluded are Proper nouns (starting with a capital letter, e.g. London, William ), words containing hyphens or apostrophes (e.g. far-away, whene'er), abbreviations (e.g. UNESCO, BBC) and words that only exist in phrases (e.g. polloi from hoi polloi).

Q3. How do you use the solver?

Use of the solver should be very easy.

The letters can either be entered directly in the spaces below the cards (e.g. if you have an existing game you wish to solve). Alternatively, you can select individual letters at random by pressing the Add consonant and Add vowel buttons as the contestants do on the television show. To get a complete game at once a number of buttons are present to provide a complete set with a named ratio of vowels to consonants. The letters selected at random are compatible with the television show. (The same number of each letter is present with the same frequencies.)

If you have a solution, you can optionally enter it in the space provided.

To solve a game, simply press the Solve button. The tool will then produce a list of all the longest answers and show you the results. If you provided a solution it will be compared with the best possible solutions.

Q4. Is the solver perfect?

The tool will always find the longest words that it believes are valid for the set of letters you enter. In that sense it is perfect. However, the dictionary used by the solver is not the same as the one used on the show. Some words generated will not be allowed as the dictionary differs and there are possibly some words that would be permitted that are not in our lexicon. The relationship between the two will improve over time as we work to improve the tool.

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